Ignore everything I have said over the years in this magazine. Go to sea, young man.
Don't go for the money. You will- if you are moderately smart- earn more in your working life ashore; a good MBA will even start you off on par with a senior officer's salary aboard. But an MBA will put you to work in a soul-destroying job, hustling corporations and individuals to make a living. You will have to lie and deceive and con; the money you make will be a poor consolation prize. Go to sea instead, for it will push you to your physical and mental limits. Get dirt under your fingernails and the sea breeze in your face, for that will teach you many things, but mainly what is real and what is fake. So go to sea because it will clear your head.
Don't go to sea to travel. You can buy an air ticket and do that more easily. You can have breakfast in Rome, lunch in New York and your luggage in Tokyo. You can be a jet setter, arriving everywhere but travelling nowhere, missing out on the three quarters of our planet that is water. If you do not go to sea, you will never see - as this sailor has- the exhilarating sight of two hundred dolphins leaping out of the water in unison in the warm Indian Ocean, and then landing in perfect synchronised abandon in the water, making a collective sound loud and clear as a thunderclap. And then doing the same routine again and again and again and again.
You will never have your breath taken away by a sunrise or sunset or a whale off your port bow. You will never get, even in first class, the complete feeling of well being that a clear star-studded night in the middle of the Pacific guarantees you. When you look up and recognise the stars as old friends. When the crisp air is pure oxygen and the coffee tastes better than anything on earth. When you are sure, alone on the bridge at night, that you are the only human on earth, and you understand why so many of the world's thinkers and writers have been sailors of one sort or another.
Go to sea to get away from civilisation. Go, because this takes you back to basics. You and your shipmates against the elements. No clutter. No emergency services either; no doctors or fire-fighters or policemen. Just you and your training. A different stress from what you will feel after the MBA. A good stress, as you will find out, because there is no sense of running to stay in place that many a job ashore entails. There is little sense of being a rat on a treadmill - something that is almost guaranteed ashore. Little concept of senseless work at sea either, the effort-without-accomplishment feeling that is so commonplace on land. What a sailor does usually shows results, good or bad. Go to sea, then, to escape becoming a rat. Go to sea to escape the life of quiet desperation that Thoreau saw most men leading.
Don't go to sea if you have no other options; there can be nothing worse than being stuck on a ship for months, working day and night and feeling trapped in the job. Instead, choose the sea. Choose it with the complete realisation that you are committing yourself to a lifestyle that you have examined and preferred. Go to sea because it is something you want and desire and not because it is the easy way out. Because it will not be; the sea is a mistress that is many things, but it is never an easy one- and that is one damned good reason to choose it.
Go to sea for the power it gives you. Not the CEO's power, forced by fear, favour or bribery, but the power of a true team that must rely on itself because there is nobody else around. Feel the adrenaline surge as you do your clearly defined job right; no collective responsibility escape clauses apply here.
Go to sea for the power it gives you over yourself, too; there is nothing more intoxicating than working- under severe pressure- to physical and mental exhaustion and finding reserves within yourself that you never knew existed. Extreme individualism or testing one's limits- call it what you will, but go to sea because this jargon will be real and not some jazzed up public relations exercise.
Anyway, go to sea. Find a way to get around the touts and corrupt company officials that have taken over the job market. Forget the tough economic times. Forget the petty accountants with their small calculators and their delusions of grandeur that convince them that they are the ones running ships; sailors know better. Forget the system that tries its best to make a filing clerk out of you, because you will be what you want to be; nobody will be able to take that away from you without your consent.
Go to sea, young man, because the experience is unmatchable. Go, because although many things will happen to you out there, only one thing is guaranteed, and that is this- every lad that goes to sea will return a man.
So go- and go with pride, because you are one of the chosen few.